Higher Degrees by Research (HDR) Assessment Procedure

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Section 1 - PREAMBLE

(1) This Procedure was approved by Academic Board on 2 July 2013 and incorporates all amendments to 15 September 2015.

(2) This Procedure is pursuant to the Higher Degrees by Research (HDR) Policy and includes the following schedules:

  1. Schedule A: List of Specified Masters Degrees
  2. Schedule B: Restricted Access to Thesis.

Section 2 - PURPOSE

(3) To outline the procedure for assessment for higher degrees by research (HDR).

Section 3 - SCOPE

(4) This Procedure applies to students for HDR, their supervisors, faculties, institutes and University administrators. It does not apply to degrees by coursework or higher doctoral degrees.

Section 4 - POLICY

(5) Refer to the Higher Degrees by Research (HDR) Policy.

Section 5 - PROCEDURE

(6) HDR students are assessed as follows:

  1. a thesis, examined in accordance with the processes set out in this procedure, or alternative processes for masters degrees specified in Schedule A: List of specified masters degrees
  2. any mandatory coursework components, assessed according to the requirements of the Assessment (Higher Education Courses) Procedure.
Thesis submission

(7) Written components of the thesis must be in English.

(8) The principal supervisor must inform Deakin Research at least three months before the examination if the examination includes an exhibition or performance.

(9) Students may include externally-published work in their thesis. Where these publications include authors in addition to the student, the student must identify their own contribution to the work and complete an Authorship Statement.

(10) Any part of a thesis submitted for another award must be identified and should not be considered as part of the thesis.

(11) Thesis material presented via the internet (such as the development of a web page) must be in a form which does not enable modification during the examination process.

(12) Students must provide notice of their intention to submit their thesis for examination using Deakin's HDR examination system.

(13) Students must prepare their written thesis component for examination in accordance with the format, content, word limits and other requirements prescribed by Deakin Research.

(14) The thesis must be approved as ready for submission by the principal or executive supervisor and the Head of Academic Unit or nominee. Deakin Research must approve the administrative requirements of the thesis.

(15) Students are wholly responsible for the content and submission of the thesis for examination.

Thesis submission without supervisor approval

(16) Students may apply to submit their thesis for examination despite any advice from their principal or executive supervisor that it is not ready for submission. In such a case, the student, supervisor and the Head of Academic Unit will be notified via the online examination system of further actions required under clause 17.

(17) Within one week of notification under clause 16 the student and the principal or executive supervisor must each make a 1-2 page written case to the Head of Academic Unit explaining why they believe the thesis is or is not ready for submission and examination.

(18) Within two weeks of the written cases being submitted, the Head of Academic Unit will establish a committee of three staff comprising:

  1. the Head of the Academic Unit or nominee (chair),
  2. the HDR Coordinator or nominee and
  3. one other staff member with experience in the field of research and in the supervision and examination of Australian HDR theses.

(19) The committee considers the two written cases and the submitted thesis. Within two weeks of receipt of the written cases the Chair of the committee must provide a brief written statement to the student and supervisor recommending that:

  1. the thesis will be accepted for examination in its current form; or
  2. additional work must be completed to bring the thesis to an assessable standard.

(20) If the committee determines that the thesis be examined against the recommendation of the supervisor, the committee will be responsible for nominating of examiners, normally within four weeks of the recommendation.

(21) If additional work must be completed, the thesis must be approved as ready for examination by the committee Chair prior to it being submitted again using the online examination system.

Selection of examiners

(22) After receipt of a notification of intent to submit the thesis, the principal or executive supervisor will nominate at least four examiners who will meet the following requirements:

  1. have international standing in the field of research and be currently active in research
  2. be independent of the conduct of the research and have no close association with the student or the candidature
  3. be competent to undertake the assessment and have experience in HDR examination
  4. be impartial and have no conflict of interest
  5. be external to the University and not have worked at or graduated from Deakin in the last five years or been employed at an institution at which any of the student's external/research supervisors are based, or at which the student has spent part or all of their candidature
  6. have a doctoral qualification or equivalent
  7. in the case of at least two examiners, reside outside Australia. Where this is not possible, an explanation will be provided in writing to the Thesis Examination Subcommittee.

(23) Where four experienced examiners at the required level cannot be found, up to one examiner without experience of examining at the level of the degree being sought may be nominated.

(24) The Head of Academic Unit will approve the nominations of examiners.

(25) Students may submit a statement to the Thesis Examination Subcommittee via the relevant HDR Adviser giving reasons why a specified person ought not to be appointed as an examiner.

(26) The Thesis Examination Subcommittee will appoint at least three independent and appropriately qualified external examiners, selected from the four nominated by the Head of the Academic Unit.

(27) All communication with the appointed examiners about the examination must be undertaken by Deakin Research.

(28) The names of examiners are not released to the student until after a decision on the examination outcome has been determined, and subject to the agreement of the examiners.

Thesis examination

(29) The examiners will assess the thesis.

(30) Examiners will provide a written assessment of the thesis in accordance with a form approved by the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research Development and Training) which specifies relevant standards and criteria consistent with the Higher Education Standards Framework and which demonstrates an original contribution to knowledge. For a doctoral applicant, this contribution must be significant. Examiners will recommend one of the outcomes specified in clause 41.

Determining the outcome of the thesis examination

(31) The Head of the relevant Academic Unit will consider examiners' reports from the examination of the thesis and, in consultation with the principal or executive supervisor, make a recommendation on the outcome of the examination according to clause 41 to the Thesis Examination Subcommittee.

(32) The Thesis Examination Subcommittee will consider the examiners' reports and recommendations of the Head of the relevant Academic Unit and determine an outcome based on those reports. The Subcommittee is not obliged to follow the recommendation of the Head of Academic Unit.

(33) At least two examiners must support the thesis at the level of the degree being sought before the Thesis Examination Subcommittee can pass the examination. For students enrolled in a doctoral degree, where the thesis is not of an appropriate standard for a doctoral degree but fulfils the criteria for the passing of an examination for a masters degree, it must have the support for this by at least two examiners.

(34) If consistent reports are received from two examiners, and the Head of Academic Unit recommends that the examination be passed, the Thesis Examination Subcommittee is not required to wait for the third examiner's report and may proceed to make a decision on the outcome.

(35) If further reports are provided after the Thesis Examination Subcommittee's decision but prior to the submission of the library copy of the thesis, the report will be provided to the student in addition to those which have been provided already. The report may be used in making any revisions required but is not considered in determining the outcome of the examination.

(36) The Thesis Examination Subcommittee may, in exceptional cases, set aside an examiner's recommendation on any of the following grounds:

  1. the absence of a clear recommendation
  2. where, in its view, the recommendation is not supported by the examiner's written report
  3. if in the view of the Thesis Examination Subcommittee there is a procedural irregularity, conflict of interest, or bias by an examiner against the student or the content of thesis. In this case, the report may be dismissed, and where necessary a new examiner appointed.

(37) An examiner's recommendation or report can only be set aside or dismissed by a quorate meeting of the Thesis Examination Subcommittee.

(38) Where the Thesis Examination Subcommittee's determines to set aside the recommendation of an examiner it may appoint an adjudicator in consultation with the Head of the Academic Unit to advise on the process or outcome of the examination. The adjudicator must be an expert in the field of the thesis and external to the University.

(39) The adjudicator will be provided with a copy of the thesis as submitted for examination (or both versions in the case of a re-examination) and all examiners' reports. The adjudicator will not provide an additional examiner's report, but will evaluate the existing examiners' reports and recommendations and make a recommendation to the Thesis Examination Subcommittee as to the outcome of the examination.

(40) Thesis Examination Subcommittee's is not bound to follow the recommendation of the adjudicator.

Outcomes of thesis examination

(41) The Thesis Examination Subcommittee will determine the outcome of the examination. Deakin Research will advise the student in writing and provide copies of the examiners' reports and the recommendation of the Head of Academic Unit. The outcome will be one of the following:

  1. Recommendation 1: The examination is passed
  2. Recommendation 2
    1. Recommendation 2.1: the examination be passed provided that the textual errors and other minor matters identified in the examiners' reports are corrected to the satisfaction of the Head of Academic Unit
    2. Recommendation 2.2: the examination be passed provided that the matters identified in the examiners' reports are addressed to the satisfaction of the Head of Academic Unit
  3. Recommendation 3: the examination not be passed but the student be permitted to revise the thesis in response to the examiners' reports and present it for re-examination.
  4. Recommendation 4 (not applicable to masters degrees)
    1. Recommendation 4.1: the thesis is not of an appropriate standard for a doctoral degree but fulfils the criteria for the passing of an examination for a masters degree.
    2. Recommendation 4.2: the thesis is not of an appropriate standard for a doctoral degree but fulfils the criteria for the passing of an examination for a masters degree provided that the textual errors and other minor matters identified in the examiners' reports are corrected to the satisfaction of the Head of Academic Unit.
  5. Recommendation 5: the examination is not passed.
Revision and re-examination

(42) If the Thesis Examination Subcommittee determines that a thesis is to be re-examined, the student will be limited to one re-examination. The student will resubmit the thesis by the deadline set by Deakin Research, which will be no later than 12 months after the student is notified of the results from the first examination.

(43) Where a thesis is re-examined, the re-submitted thesis will be sent back to the examiners making the request for re-examination. Where an original examiner is unable to act, a replacement examiner will be appointed to examine the revised thesis. The replacement examiner will be sent only the revised version of the thesis, and not the prior examiners' reports.

(44) The examination may be passed if the thesis has the support of two examiners through the combined first examination and re-examination processes.

(45) There is no option for further examination unless there is cause to set aside an examiner's report as described above, or there is a major procedural irregularity in the process.

Lodgement of final thesis after examination

(46) The final thesis must:

  1. be accompanied by a signed declaration by the student certifying all research integrity requirements have been complied with; and
  2. conform to the University's requirements as prescribed by Deakin Research.

(47) Students are required to submit an electronic copy of the final thesis with Deakin Research through the online Students may elect to allow access to their entire thesis via Deakin Research Online, or limit access to the thesis citation, abstract and metadata only. Where access via Deakin Research Online is limited to the citation, abstract and metadata, the Library will make individual digital copies available for consultation, loan and limited copying in accordance with the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). HDR examination system for lodgement with the University Library.

Restriction of access

(48) The student may apply to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) or nominee to defer publication or restrict access to a thesis for a limited period of time to facilitate the commercial exploitation of material or for other compelling reasons according to Schedule B: Restricted access to thesis.

Recommendation for the degree

(49) Following advice from the Thesis Examination Subcommittee and lodgement of the final thesis, the Research and Research Training Committee will recommend students who have successfully completed the thesis examination process and completed all other assessable course requirements to Academic Board for award of the relevant degree.

Appeals

(50) A student may appeal the decision of the Thesis Examination Subcommittee to the University Appeals Committee by lodging a notice of appeal with the Secretary to the Academic Board within 20 working days of being notified of the decision. The notice of appeal must state the grounds for appeal and must be accompanied by a written submission that addresses the grounds for appeal and includes any relevant documentary or other evidence. The grounds of appeal will be confined to one or more of the following:

  1. procedural irregularities in the examination process
  2. documented evidence of prejudice or bias in the examination process.

(51) Appeals by students rejecting the academic assessment of the merit of their work are not permitted.

(52) The appeal will be conducted in the same manner as set out in relevant provisions in clauses 33 to 61 of the Academic Progress Procedure.

(53) For HDR appeals, the University Appeals Committee will include suitably qualified members who have experience of HDR supervision and/or management.

(54) Decisions of the University Appeals Committee are final and binding and there is no further avenue for appeal within the University.

Section 6 - DEFINITIONS

(55) For the purpose of this Procedure:

  1. Deakin Research: the central administrative body responsible for the management of higher degree by research candidature.
  2. Head of Academic Unit: Heads of academic units listed in the Higher Degrees by Research (HDR) Policy - Schedule A: Academic Units.
  3. Head of Academic Unit nominee: a senior member of academic staff who is qualified as a principal supervisor.
  4. Higher Degrees by Research (HDR): academic awards of the University, as specified under Regulation 5.2(2) Higher Education Award Courses - General.
  5. Thesis: the major assessable research outputs presented for examination that demonstrate a student's original contribution to knowledge, which is substantial for doctoral students, which may include materials and formats such as performances, creative works, folios or electronic media.